AXA Art recently published the results of its 2013 international survey of art collectors as Collecting in the Digital Age available for download from the AXA Art website. The report’s foreword by Dr. Ulrich Guntram, CEO AXA ART Group, describes their motivation for carrying out the survey:
We felt at home within the collectors’ community – until the Internet started to change their habits. We became curious and conducted several dozen long, face-to-face interviews with collectors. The issues which emerged from these dialogues – whilst still hypothetical – were used as the basis for a worldwide online survey. It became evident that the worldwide community of collectors is changing, and that such change is partly driven by the Internet.
Among the report’s findings are:
- Close to half of collectors are self-employed or entrepreneurs, whereas only 25% are employees
- Collectors “often live in childless relationships”
- Paintings are at the top of the popularity list of collectables while young collectors prefer new works of art
- “Gut instinct” is the main collecting strategy
In terms of how the internet has changed the respondents’ approach to art collecting, there is a mixed response:
This week Art Market Technology spoke with Mark Lurie, CEO of Lofty, the online marketplace which is using technology to simplify the sales process for private sellers of art and antiquities in the mid-market, what Lurie defines as $500-$50,000.
Lurie describes the problem that Lofty solves as more than simply providing an online sales platform:
A big problem in the fine art and antiques market is information – between buyers, sellers and experts. If you can use technology to facilitate information exchange, you can solve a lot of other problems. That’s really what we’re using technology to do – connecting people with each other and enabling communication about objects.
The 2014 TEFAF Art Market Report, compiled by Dr Clare McAndrew and published this week by the European Fine Art Foundation to coincide with TEFAF Maastricht contains some eye-catching statistics and projections.
Section 2.4 (p27-28) of the report covers online sales, noting the impact the web has had on art sales in 2013:
Previous studies conducted by Arts Economics for TEFAF have observed that the art market was relatively slow in recognizing the potential of the internet as a means both of selling and of enlarging its client base. This is now beginning to change rapidly, both for the auction sector and for dealers.
Key findings from the report include: Continue reading
A frequent riposte from traditional auction houses to the rapidly growing online art marketplace is that online auctions can never replicate for high end buyers the value proposition offered by ‘bricks and mortar’ auction houses.
Auctionata is a Berlin-based startup that is setting out to prove them wrong. Founded in 2012 by Alexander Zacke, Auctionata’s approach is designed to reassure consignors and bidders that buying and selling high value artworks online is as good as – or even better – than the experience offered by traditional auction houses, either in their physical or online salesrooms.
Ensuring that the virtual user experience is as engaging as a traditional in-person auction is a key area of focus. With capacity for thousands of users, auctions are live-streamed in High Definition, broadcast from Auctionata’s own television studio. Artworks for sale can be viewed in high resolution, and real time information exchange on the bidding activities of participants gives the online bidder an ‘in the room’ auction experience. Continue reading
The legal definition of what constitutes a public auction is at the centre of legislation which is due to be enforced in June 2014 and which could undermine the rapidly expanding online art sales world, according to The Art Newspaper (‘New rules threaten online art market in the UK‘).
Cooling off periods, where the purchaser can return goods within 14 days after purchasing are nothing new. However, art auctions have historically been excluded from the legislation’s reach:
Until now, auctions—whether conducted in the saleroom or online—were excluded as it was thought the right to cancel would encourage irresponsible bidding and could leave auction houses vulnerable to covering costs
However, from June, this exception will be removed. Pierre Valentin, an art lawyer and partner at Constantine Cannon LLP sees this as an example of the unsuitability of consumer online sales models to the sale of high value works of art.
“The right to cancel is incompatible with the auction of art and antiques. The new regulations might work for the sale of trinkets on eBay, but not for high-end works of art.”
Read more: New rules threaten online art market in the UK (The Art Newspaper 9 January 2014)
Stephen Tanenbaum (@sltbaum) President & Co-Founder of the San Francisco-based online art sales platform, UGallery, writes in the Huffington Post (‘How Mobile Technology is Accelerating Online Art Growth‘) that not only are digital technologies transforming all aspects of the art market, but that change is being accelerated by the adoption of mobile devices.
Just as online art went mainstream with the general shift towards e-commerce, browsing art through smartphones and tablets will likely see substantial acceleration over the next 5 years, creating a massive sales opportunity for the industry while making the buying and selling process easier than ever.
UGallery has seen increases of 100% in both mobile traffic and mobile transactions, and many platforms now offer iOS or Android-specific apps, alongside mobile optimized web platforms. Larger smartphone screen sizes, the rise of the tablet device, and integrated e-commerce all combine to provide a better user experience which facilitates the online sales transaction.
Interestingly, Tanenbaum also cites the ability to research or share an artwork with friends through the user’s mobile device as an aid to completing the sale:
the prelude to purchase often involves a deliberation period, sharing the artwork with friends, family and/or designers, before the collector ultimately says yes. Mobile shortens that traditionally longer purchase process for both sellers and collectors and makes it easier and more enjoyable.
Read more: How Mobile Technology is Accelerating Online Art Growth (Huffington Post 9 January 2014)
The explosion in ‘art tech’ startups in recent years will result, Adam believes, in a reckoning by investors who “will begin to tire of the huge ‘burn’ in some of the high-profile sites and will want to see some profits.” For many startups, acquisition is the end game, and Adam rightly predicts consolidation in the art market technology startup scene in 2014.
She expects “online to continue to grow in the volume market, and for more transactions to be completed online at the mid-level” helped in part by eBay’s return to the fine art sales market “for the third time.” eBay and Amazon as players in the online art market will also have a negative impact on smaller players.
Interestingly, against the trend of citing technology as a democratizing force which brings transparency to an often opaque marketplace (see last year’s Saatchi Online interview) Adam writes that
The increasing number of sales of art online muddies, rather than clarifies, the size and nature of the transactions. A new online site, ArtWide, promises complete anonymity for buyer and seller, so the whole transaction is completed with neither knowing who the other is.
Adam remains – adamant? – about how unlikely it is that online art sales will make inroads in the higher end of the market – a market segment which grabbed headlines in the last quarter of 2013. On the prospect of seeing a $100m Picasso sold online in 2014, Adam simply says: “Forget it.”
Read more: What will 2014 bring? (The Art Newspaper 31 December 2013)